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Connecting with Concepts and Skills

parent reads to child

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About this video

In this clip, Lisa takes advantage of opportunities provided by a storybook to help her 4-year-old son Miguel make meaningful connections with important concepts and to practice emerging skills. Miguel has special needs associated with language and developmental delays, as well as learning and behavioral difficulties that are generally associated with attention deficit disorders. His mother is able to take advantage of the engaging context provided by a favorite storybook. In some cases, opportunities to focus with Miguel on concepts emerge from the text of the story, while in other cases, Lisa creates opportunities to explore the concepts using the story as a basis.

In this video Lisa models several ways you can help children connect with new vocabulary and concepts through reading their favorite books with them.

  • Use Motions to Help Children Understand the Meaning of Words.
    Lisa uses motions as she reads, “It went here. It went there. It went on. It went off.” Notice that she models these movements at the beginning of the storytelling, and the boy joins her as she uses the same motions later in the book.
  • Share Humorous Moments in the Story.
    The mother and child share the humor in the rhyme text when it says, “‘Who? Who made that boo?’ asked Sam.” Later in the story, when an owl in the text is called a “silly goose,” Lisa helps Miguel understand the humor by pointing to the owl, laughing, and asking, “Is he a goose?” Miguel laughs as he replies, “He’s an owl.”
  • Ask the Child to Predict What Might Happen Next.
    After reading that the characters Sam and Gus made a lot more words, Lisa asks, “Then what happened? What’s going to happen?” Later in the story, she reads, “And did those cars go? They went bash. They went smash.” She then asks Miguel, “What happened?” He replies, “They crashed.”
  • Teach Math Skills and Concepts within a Story.
    Lisa reads, “The firefly made shapes with his lights” and traces the shape with her finger. She then asks Miguel, “What shape is that?” And he answers, “Triangle.” Lisa also reads, “Then Sam looked down and saw some cars.” She then asks Miguel, “How many cars?” She begins to count them with Miguel but drops out and allows Miguel to finish counting the four cars.
  • Reinforce Recognition of Facial Expressions and Feelings.
    Lisa cues Miguel to recognize a character’s feelings by saying, “Look,” pointing to the character’s face, and asking, “Which face is he making? He looks… (she waits until Miguel has identified the feeling) scared, doesn’t he?” Note that after asking the question, Lisa waits for several seconds for Miguel to think of an answer. During the reading of the book, Lisa also helps Miguel to identify instances where the characters felt “sad” and “mad.”
  • Emphasize Words that Rhyme.
    The ability to recognize and make rhymes is helpful to children learning to read. Lisa works on this ability with Miguel when she helps him rhyme fish/wish and house/mouse.
  • Choose Books that Lend Themselves to Participation.
    For example, she reads, “Sam was there, but where was Gus?” Miguel responds by pointing to Gus on the page.
  • Emphasize Print Awareness by Pointing to Important Words.
    For example, at one point, one of the characters writes a sign that is portrayed in the illustrations. Lisa uses this opportunity to help Miguel understand that print has meaning by asking, “What did Gus write?” She then points to each word in the illustration as she reads, “Come in. Free show.”
  • Help the Child Use Illustrations to Provide Clues to the Meaning of the Text.
    Lisa helps Miguel use the illustrations as clues to what the printed words might say. For instance, she points at a picture of a hot dog stand with a sign and asks, “What does this say? Hot…” The boy then smiles and says, “Hot dog.”
  • Model Emotional Engagement with the Characters.
    For instance, when Gus the firefly is trapped in a jar, Lisa says, “Poor Gus.”



Mother: Sam and the Firefly. Sam and the Firefly, by P.D. Eastman. “The moon was up when Sam came out. ‘Now is the time for fun,’ he said. ‘Who,’ said Sam, ‘Who? Who wants to play?’ (Miguel points and touches the page.) But no one said…”

Miguel: (whispering) A thing.

Mother: “A thing.” (whispering) It’s quiet. “Then Sam looked about. The fox was asleep.” (Miguel touches the page, pointing to the animals.) Where’s the fox? “The jay was asleep. The dog was asleep.” Where is he? There he is. “And the hog was asleep. The sheep was asleep and so was the…”

Miguel: (whispering) Cow.

Mother: “Cow. Then Sam went down to the lake, but no one was there. All he could see was the moon and the shine of the moon on the water. It takes two to have fun. ‘Who,’ said Sam, ‘Who! Who wants to play?’ But no one said a thing. Then Sam saw…”

Miguel: (whispering) A light.

Mother: “…a light. He saw the light hop. He saw the light jump. It went here. (Moving her arm and pointing.) It went there. It went on. It went—”

Miguel: Off.

Mother: “-off. But no one said a thing. Oh! Then the light hit Sam on top of his head. (Making a snap sound and touching the top of Miguel’s head.) The light said—”

Miguel: Boo.

Mother: “ ‘Boo!’ ”

Both (in unison):“ ‘Who made that boo?’ ” (laughing)

Mother: “—asked Sam, ‘Who are you?’ ‘I am a firefly. My name is Gus, and I have a trick I can do with my light. Look, look. I can put it on and keep it on like this.’ Then Sam saw something new. The firefly made lines with his light.” (whooshing) Psssshhhhhh. What shape is that?

Miguel: A triangle.

Mother: A triangle. (Miguel helps to turn the page.) “ ‘Say!’ said Sam. ‘What a trick! This is new! Oh, the things we can do with a trick like that. Let me show you. Now put on your light and keep it on. Then you do what I do,’ he said to Gus.” (Miguel turns the page.) Mmm. What are they going to do?

Miguel: They going.

Mother: They’re going to fly, aren’t they? “Then Sam went up and Gus went after him. When Sam went down, down went the firefly too.” (Gestures with one hand.) Nnnnnneeeooooooo-psh. “Where Sam went, Gus went. Then Sam stopped and Gus stopped too. “ ‘Now just look there,’ said Sam. ‘See what we did?’ ‘Why, we made words! Biiiig words,’ said Gus the firefly. ‘Say, I like this game.’ ” It says, “Gus and—”

Miguel: Sam.

Mother: “Sam.” (coughs) “ ‘I want to do it again. This word trick is fun. Come on, make more words.’ (Miguel helps to turn the page.) So away the two went, Gus after Sam. They made lots of new words. They made—”

Miguel: Fiss?

Mother: “Fish. They made—”

Miguel: Wiss.

Mother: “Wish. They made house. They made a … mouse.”

Miguel: (whispering) Mouse.

Mother: “A fox. Dog. Cat. Yes. No. Kangaroo and…”

Miguel: Rewind it.

Mother: “Thermometer. Sam and Gus made a lot more words. Then…” What happened? (Miguel puts his finger on the page.) What’s gonna happen?

Miguel: More words. (Helping turn the page.)

Mother: (gasps) “Sam looked around and he was all alone. Where was Gus?” (Miguel points.) There he is. “Then Sam looked down. He saw some cars.” How many cars?

Both (in unison): One, (Miguel points as they count.)

Mother: two, three,

Miguel: four.

Mother: Four. “Then Sam looked down. He saw some cars. And there was the firefly, down by the cars. “ ‘Come back here!’ called Sam. ‘What are you up to?’ ” What was Gus up to? “Gus made some words. Gus made ‘Go fast’ and ‘Go slow,’ ‘Go right,’ (gesturing) ‘Go left,’ and did those cars go. They went bash. They went smash.” What happened?

Miguel: They crashed.

Mother: They crashed. “Gus did words that made the cars crash. Oh, what a mess those cars were in. ‘Dear me,’ said Sam. ‘This will not do. He should not do this. Gus did a bad trick with those words.’ ” Look (pointing to the page). What face is he making? He looks … scared, doesn’t he, like, “Oh, no. ‘Now see here, Gus.’ But Gus would not see. He would not hear. ‘Yow-wow! I like to make words. Lots of words,’ he said. ‘I like this game. Let me be, you old goose, you.’ “And away he went.” Is he a goose?

Miguel: He’s an owl.

Mother: He’s an owl. He’s not a goose, is he. “ ‘Stop, Gus, stop! Come back,’ called Sam. ‘That was a bad trick. Come back here now. (Miguel leans forward, looking closely at the page.) Bad tricks are not fun.’ “ ‘Oh, go home,’ said the firefly. ‘You old goose, you old hen. What do you know about fun? Goodbye.’ And away Gus went.” He called him an old hen. Is Sam an old hen?

Miguel: No, he’s a owl. (turning the page.)

Mother: No, he’s an owl. “Now Gus did more tricks. He did word tricks on some airplanes. He made them go—”

Miguel: Up.

Mother: “Up.” And then— “He made them go—”

Miguel: Down.

Mother: “He made them go down. He made them go this way. (Miguel and his mother both point in different directions.) He made them go—”

Miguel: That way.

Mother: “That way. And now what a mess the airplanes were in. ‘No, Gus, no,’ said Sam. But Gus did not want to stop, not yet. This was fun. (Miguel helps turn the page.) Oh, dear. Then Sam saw Gus do another bad trick. It made the firefly laugh and laugh. It was funny to see them go in free to a movie show. ‘Stop your tricks!’ called Sam. “ ‘No more words! Stop, Gus, stop, now stop!’ What did Gus write? “He wrote, ‘Come in. Free show’ at the movies.” Look at all the people are running in, aren’t they? (Miguel helps turn the page.) “But Gus the firefly did not stop. ‘I have one more trick,’ he said. ‘A little trick. Look, Sam, look! A one-word trick.’ ” What does this say? “Hot—”

Miguel: Hot dogs.

Mother: “Hot dogs.” The man’s makin’ hot dogs. “Then Gus did his little trick, his one-word trick. He did a bad trick. He did it to the hot dog man. He made the word ‘Cold’ near the top of the stand. (gasps) “The men looked up. They saw what Gus did. ‘We want our hot dogs hot, not cold! Goodbye,’ they said.” Uh-oh. What happened? (Miguel helps turn the page.) “Gus did not see the hot dog man, the man with the net and the jar. ‘Look out!’ called Sam. ‘Look out, Gus! The hot dog man is—”

Miguel: Angry.

Mother: “ ‘Mad.’ ‘I will get that firefly,’ said the hot dog man. ‘I will take him away from here. He will not play another trick on me.’ (Miguel turns the page.) Then something hit Gus.” What was it?

Miguel: A net.

Mother: A net. “He was in the net.” Then where did he go? (Miguel turns the page.)

Miguel: In the jar.

Mother: In the ja—In the jar. In the jar.

About this resource

Setting(s) for which the article is intended:
  • Home

Intended audience(s):
  • Parents / Family

Age Levels (the age of the children to whom the article applies):
Related Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards:
Reviewed: 2017